Monday, March 5, 2012

Superior Helmet Design

With public consciousness rapidly rising over the issue of head concussion it is inevitable that we now take head protection much more seriously.  Unfortunately there is little room in the available geometry to truly tackle the problem.  Yet this looks to be going in the right direction.

If this program is truly successful, we may actually be able to protect professional athletes heads from the consequences of what are serious concussions brought about by the force of their own body weight and the impact of opponents.  The later may need to be regulated out of sport, but it would be much better to simply make it fully survivable as accidents must be also allowed to happen.

The harsh reality is that the brain does not heal very well.  The only worse thing than a concussion is an additional concussion that creates cross tears in the brain that are mechanically unable to reorient and properly reconnect.  That is why it is necessary to impose long layoffs after concussions and we have only begun to fully appreciate this.

It is at least imaginable that an injury in bone or tissue can fully recover because it has occurred over and over again.  That is hardly true for a damaged brain were the prognosis is recovery of function but not the full endowment expected.

Helmets inspired by brain fluid to offer better impact protection

17:11 March 1, 2012

MIPS is designed to decrease forces on the brain during oblique impacts

Inspired by the fluid that wraps your brain in a protective, wet blanket, Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), which is the name of both the technology and the company behind it, claims to offer superior protection for your head. Major helmet manufacturers are starting to turn on to what is self-hailed as the "next generation" of helmet design.

The system developed by the Stockholm-based company originated at Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology and Karolinska Institute and is based on concepts pulled from physiology. The human brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which allows it to slide around inside the skull upon head impact and protect it from direct impact. MIPS helmets don't use fluid, but sandwich a layer of low-friction material between the outer shell and the inner liner. This material allows the shell to move around in relation to the liner, thereby limiting the forces passed straight through to your head. The same way your brain "floats" in the cerebrospinal fluid, your head floats inside the helmet.

The MIPS system was designed specifically for oblique impacts where the helmet hits the ground at an angle. According to company research, the mobile shell protects the head more effectively on these types of falls. In fact, its testing indicates that MIPS technology can reduce the forces to the brain by up to 40 percent compared to other helmets on a 45-degree angle impact. Its vertical-impact protection is comparable to traditional helmets.


MIPS claims that standard helmet design is concerned only with vertical impacts. According to its literature, helmet designers drop helmets vertically onto the flat ground to determine how well they absorb impact. Of course, not all falls result in your head dropping straight down into the ground. In fact, we'd bet that most falls involve the very type of oblique impacts that MIPS seeks to protect against. If you think about falling off a bike or on ski slope, there's a good chance you aren't going to land squarely on your head, but will knock your head at an angle.

MIPS licenses its technology to a variety of major helmet manufacturers, including Scott, Red and POC. The technology is currently used in bike, snow and equestrian helmets, and the company has plans to expand into other types of helmets. MIPS CEO Niklas Steenberg says that the company hopes that its technology will eventually be analogous to airbags in the auto industry, a "non-negotiable ingredient" that is a part of all products in its industry.

It looks like the classic foam bucket is becoming a thing of the past. We recently covered Vaco12 helmet technology, which aims to spread impact out across a three-dimensional array of beads. A couple years ago we saw the Lazer Superskin, a sort of reverse-MIPS that put a low-friction membrane on the outside of the helmet to decrease chance of injuries.

The video below shows how the MIPS technology works.

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